Eloise Williams has recently released her second book, Gaslight, which is set in Cardiff. We wanted to find out more about the author and why she chose Cardiff as a setting.
You’ve set your novel, Gaslight, in Cardiff. Why is Cardiff important to you?
Most of my family live in Cardiff. I’ve always spent lots of time there and have memories from so many celebrations! Christmas and birthdays, New Year’s Eve singing Auld Lang Syne under starry skies, weddings, anniversaries… the list goes on.
I was born in St David’s Hospital in Canton, opposite the place where Ivor Novello was born, and then moved near Victoria Park. We moved about the South Wales area when I was growing up, but in the holidays I would get to spend long days riding my bike through the sunlit streets of Llandaff where my Nana Brenda lived, walking to The Dell to play, running around the gardens of Insole Court. Lots of happy memories.
When I left home I went to live in Cardiff and worked in Howells Department Store on St. Mary’s Street for a couple of years. As part of the induction you were taken to see the old quarters where the sales people and servants used to live, which was fascinating! It is also built with a church at its centre, because they weren’t allowed to knock it down – it’s still there if you get a chance to go and have a look. I was enchanted by the history.
In my early twenties I was lucky enough to get a place at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. I began to study Victorian Theatre, looking into the work of Sir Henry Irving (a great Victorian actor and the first to receive a knighthood) and Ellen Terry (the leading Shakespearean actress of the Victorian Era). My dissertation was on Henry Irving’s influence on the writing of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. That’s where I started thinking about foggy streets, villainous characters and, of course, gaslights!
Cardiff has that feeling of excitement for me. It has history woven into every part of it and it changes so regularly. The people are among the kindest I have ever met and the City is one of the most beautiful and vibrant.
When I came up with the idea for Gaslight I was looking out of a window into Bute Park, just behind the castle and I’ve used it as a significant place in the book. I’ve also used Roath Park and the garden at Insole Court. The parks are so beautiful in the city and they really inspired me to use them.
Is Gaslight autobiographical in any way?
My Grandad, Arthur Warren Howe, – known as Warren - was from Cardiff. His father was a ship’s pilot and his mother played the piano for the silent movies at the Empire Cinema, which was formerly the Empire Theatre, and features largely in the book. They lived on Clarence Embankment and watched the regattas from their bedroom window. The docks area of Cardiff and the theatrical history of Cardiff must be running through my veins I think.
His wife, my Nana Brenda, and he had five children and they were all brought up in Cardiff. Including my mum – the one with the long, red hair.
I, like Nansi, wanted to be an actor when I was young. I was very lucky that I followed the path of my dreams and appeared on the stage many times. I’ve performed on the stage at the beautiful ‘armadillo’ – The Wales Millennium Centre – with the fantastic Hijinx Theatre. I’ve been an Ugly Sister at the outstanding Chapter Arts Centre, and an Elizabethan peasant in a play about Shakespeare at The Sherman. I’ve sung in Cameron Mackintosh’s ‘Les Miserables’ within Cardiff Castle’s walls and I’ve been involved in lots of great productions and projects right across the city. Without all those experiences, I don’t think Nansi or Gaslight would have been possible.
Synopsis of the book
Have you seen her?
Cardiff 1899. All Nansi knows is that she and her mother were running away from someone, and then she was being fished out of Cardiff docks with no memory of how she got there. Her mother hasn’t been seen since. With nobody else to turn to, she works for Pernicious Sid at the Empire Theatre. She loves it when she gets the chance to perform and dreams of being a star, but Sid also makes her steal, sneaking into rich houses dressed as a maid, telling her the money will pay for a dectective to find out who she is. Life is hard but Nansi is a fighter, determined to protect her friend Bee and, most of all, to find her mother.
Everything changes when Constance and Violet join the theatre. At first it looks like Violet might be Nansi’s big break, but it’s Con that holds the real secret. Who can Nansi trust? As she starts to get closer to the truth, she's soon on the run for her life.
Can she save her mother? Can she save herself?
Eloise Williams's wild, dark Victorian thriller has a brave, complex heroine who will break your heart and make you cheer. 'It's hard to drown when you're as good at swimming as I am...'
So finally, Eloise, we have to ask you about flowers, right?! Do you like having fresh flowers at home?
Always! My mum was a florist when I was a little girl so I’ve always loved fresh flowers! There’s something so wonderful about having something so beautiful and delicate in your home. Also with the dark evenings and the grey skies I like to brighten up my life by bringing a bit of summer indoors. I’ll definitely be getting some poinsettia and roses for myself and as most of my family live in Cardiff I’ll be sending them some flowers too!
A Special Christmas Treat Exclusive To Flowers4Cardiff Customers
As a special Christmas treat for Flowers4Cardiff customers, Eloise has offered to personally write a message of your choice and sign the inside of the cover of any of her books that are purchased through our site. To take advantage of this offer, click on the book image below, this will take you directly to the page you require. Alternatively, visit our gifts page to purchase the books and see our other gift items.
A Final Message From The Author
"Merry Christmas ac Nadolig Llawen!" (I was once employed to act as an Elf, hope you enjoy yoursELVES!)